What's Next For "Don't Ask Don't Tell"


Yesterday’s Senate failure on the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal was disappointing, but as White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs put it, “I don’t think this is the end.” Oh yeah?

First comes the finger-pointing. The New York Times opined in its news piece that yesterday’s failure was a symptom of “Congress [being] increasingly paralyzed by the partisan fury of the midterm elections,” and the inability to even open debate on a defense bill that would simply open the door to DADT’s repeal was “more a result of a dispute between Democrats and Republicans over legislative process than a straightforward referendum on whether to allow gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers to serve openly.”

On her show yesterday, Rachel Maddow called that a red herring, arguing that Republicans had dragged their feet on the procedural stuff merely to mask their own culture warrior opposition to gays in the military, and that none of their protests held water. (Also, we can blame both Arkansas Senators, nominally Democrats, for voting with the Republicans.)

Indeed, the House-ordered Pentagon Study gave Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’s defenders a false cover for their bigotry and/or political cowardice. John McCain said it would be premature to vote on the bill, before the results were in, but as Lady Gaga sensibly noted yesterday, the bill stipulates that the repeal wouldn’t go into effect until after the study results and Pentagon officials certified it wouldn’t harm military readiness.

After deliberately obfuscating on the Senate floor, McCain continued to defy facts and act like a complete asshole (check out the singsong at the end) when two gay journalists, The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld and Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner, pushed back at his claims that the military isn’t seeking out gay people for discharge.

Except… the military is, as seen in the case of Air Force Major Mike Almy, who, as Think Progress points out, told McCain as much in person in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee:

“In Iraq, during the height of the insurgency, someone in the Air Force ordered a search of my private emails solely to determine if I had violated “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and to gather whatever evidence could be used against me.” “I was relieved of my duties, leading nearly 200 Airmen, my security clearance was suspended and part of my pay was terminated. Even as my commander was relieving me of my duties, he assured me this was in no way a reflection of my performance or my abilities as an officer,” Almy testified.

National security above all things. No wonder Al Franken cried.

We’re with you, Al. But onward. There’s still an option that the Senate could vote in the amendment during the lame duck session in December, when the midterms are past. That’s an option the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network brought up:

Let’s be clear: Opponents to repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ did not have the votes to strike those provisions from the bill. Instead, they had the votes for delay. Time is the enemy here. We now have no choice but to look to the lame duck session where we’ll have a slim shot.

Another possibility, Nathaniel Frank said on The Rachel Maddow Show yesterday, is for the president to decide that the government won’t appeal the California decision that ruled the policy unconstitutional. Gay rights activists are increasingly looking to the federal courts to affirm their rights, though as one scholar told the Times, this carries its own risk:

“I feel if you waited five years, the whole thing would go away” as public opinion continues to shift, he said. “It would be terrible if this were like the abortion cases, and for the next 40 years you were fighting a rear-guard action.”

We all know how much that sucks.

Another option is for the president to issue an executive order suspending enforcement of the policy, at the very least for now. Gay rights activists have argued (pdf) that the president has this authority, and Rachel Maddow’s been pushing it (see the above clip), pointing out that the president promised to end the policy this year and appears to have negotiated without any actual partner to make a compromise. She argues that it would energize the base and is consonant with general public opinion. And, you know, is the right thing to do.

Despite Setback, Gay Rights Move Forward [NYT]
Move to End ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Stalls in Senate [NYT]
McCain Ignores Testimony Before His Committee, Claims Military Doesn’t ‘Seek Out’ Orientation [Think Progress]
Senate Republicans Block Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal [Politico]

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